NBA: Assessing the betting scene at the two-month mark

NBA: Assessing the betting scene at the two-month mark article feature image

We’re now two months into the NBA season, so we’ve seen enough basketball to start assessing the odds market for major awards.

Some of the classics are covered, and we will also take a look a couple of other awards the betting public can enjoy.

MVP – James Harden

As much as it has been stirring Rockets fans up on Twitter, the MVP race isn’t quite as clear cut as they think. Voters love a narrative, and with LeBron James approaching his 33rd birthday while putting up some incredible numbers, they could be swayed toward voting for The King.

Per Game Table
James Harden 28 25 35.9 .463 .406 .523 .567 .863 0.6 4.5 5.1 9.5 1.9 0.4 32.0
LeBron James 33 28 37.2 .583 .422 .638 .637 .764 1.3 7.0 8.2 9.0 1.4 1.1 28.2
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/14/2017.


Harden, for the moment, is a safe and a worthy favorite for the award. His team has the best record in the league, and he’s arguably putting up the best numbers. That should be enough to outweigh the narrative developing around the aging James.

At -125, Harden is my pick for MVP, but if the Cavaliers can get to within touching distance of the Rockets’ win percentage, you’d be foolish not to consider James as a potential winner.

Rookie of the Year – Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons is such a heavy favorite for this award that Australian book SportsBet has already paid out $87,000 to almost 1,000 punters who were on Simmons to win.

His numbers are beyond belief, with King James himself recently anointing the Aussie as a “young king.”

Per Game Table
2017-18 26 36.2 .504 .000 .515 .504 .567 2.0 6.8 8.9 7.7 2.0 0.8 17.5
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/15/2017.

He passes the eye test with flying colors, and the numbers back up what you’re seeing. An injury is all that is stopping Simmons from claiming the award.

It’s almost a pain how good he is. If not for Simmons, a ROY race made up of Lonzo Ball, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Kuzma, Jayson Tatum and Dennis Smith Jr. would have been one for the ages.

Championship – Warriors

The Rockets have a chance to build a lead at the top of the West if the Warriors drop a couple of games without Steph Curry. But at the end of the day, there’s not anything any team can do to dislodge the Warriors as favorites for the championship.

Even with the Rockets looking like potential champions, the Warriors are in cruise mode. Steve Kerr has admitted as much and doesn’t think the malaise that has set in is any reason to worry.

The Warriors have always known they would have 82 preseason games before the real basketball started. They’re looking to peak at the right time, and despite the Rockets, Celtics and Cavaliers playing well, I’m still taking the Warriors at -167 against the field at +135.

Best individual performance so far – James Harden

The Beard displayed exactly why he’s the MVP favorite in this one. Against the defensive-minded Jazz, Harden shot at 76 percent, including seven of eight from beyond the arc.

He got off to a hot start with 22 points in the first quarter before adding another 32 points along with 13 assists before the final siren. The Jazz had no answers as Harden punished them by either driving into the lane to finish with ease, or by hoisting up a long-range bomb following his signature stepback move.

Best team against the spread – Celtics (20-8-2)

When Gordon Hayward went down five minutes into the season, we all thought the Celtics were done, and the bookies agreed.

After using the second game of the season to regroup, Boston went on to win 16 games in a row while going 13-2-1 against the spread. They set a history-making pace to start the season, and through 29 games are covering at 71.4 percent for a 38.6 percent ROI.

The record against the spread is starting to regress toward the mean, though, so we might see the Celtics drop a few as we head toward Christmas.


Worst team against the spread – Thunder (9-18-0)

As if the Thunder having a disappointing 13-14 straight up record wasn’t bad enough, punters have been throwing their money away in anticipation of an improvement.

Of their 26 games so far this season, 18 have seen the Thunder receive over 60 percent of spread bets. Their 5-13 record for those 18 games at a -45.8 percent ROI has been a huge contributor in losing the public $1,041 if you had put $100 on every game.

Like the Celtics, we can expect a regression toward the mean. As Mark Gallant points out, newly formed super teams tend to improve in the second half of the season.

They haven’t started on their rise toward the mean just yet, though, so hold off on backing them until we start to see signs of improvement.

Getting the ball to Paul George more would help for starters.

Bet the public got right – Cavaliers (-8.5) @ Bulls

It was the third most lopsided bet of the season so far with 82 percent of the tickets going with the Cavaliers at -8.5. From the beginning of the second quarter when Cleveland covered the line for the first time in the game to the very end, the public was sitting pretty.

The final score was a blowout, 113-91.

Bet the public got wrong – Cavaliers (-5.5) vs. Hornets

The Cavaliers have been a favorite for punters all season, but on this occasion, 84 percent of them got it wrong.

With a heavy public backing on the -5.5 line, the Cavaliers only covered in this game for 45 seconds – total. Their biggest lead all game was only six points.

After 15 lead changes and 16 tied scores, the Cavaliers managed to win the game 100-99, but the majority of punters went home with their tail between their legs.

Most heavily bet game – Rockets @ Warriors (-9.5)

The Rockets/Warriors game on opening night is still the most popular of the season so far. As reigning champs, the Warriors were at -9.5. And while they did lead for most of the game, the Rockets covered for 65 percent of it – including when it mattered most.

With a 122-121 win, the Rockets safely covered and allowed 45 percent of NBA punters to start the season with some extra money in their pockets.

First-half flyers – Raptors

The Raptors have come out of the gates strong to lead the league against the spread in first-half lines. They’re covering the first half at 70.8 percent for a 34.8 percent ROI.

Often overlooked by the betting public, the Raptors are the most profitable team across the opening 24 minutes in the NBA. Strangely enough, they only cover 54 percent of their games across 48 minutes, so keep that in mind next time you’re laying down on the Raptors.

Second-half flops – Heat

It must be frustrating as a Heat fan to see them start games so strong only for a second-half collapse to ruin them.

The Heat are above average in points scored in the first half, with the opening quarter especially fruitful. There’s something about the halftime oranges that sucks the talent out of this Heat team like the Monstars, though.

The Heat rank 29th in second-half points and are the lowest third-quarter scoring team in the league, with an average of only 21.7 points. They can’t be trusted to hold a halftime lead, so when you can, fade the Heat during the 15-minute break.


All stats provided by Basketball-Reference and NBA Stats as of 12/14

All odds provided by William Hill as of 12/14

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